Why Do Attorneys Charge Consultation Fees?
It's a frequent question . . . "Do you offer free consultations?"
The Short Answer
The answer is, "I'm happy to spend some time answering general question for you over the phone." Beyond that, Patent and Trademark law quickly gets into providing substanative legal advice. Sometimes that advice is, "don't proceed," but it is still legal advice which requires knowledge, training, and often some research to answer. Once we're giving legal advice, or blocking out a portion of time in our schedule to meet with you, just like a doctor's appointment, well, we need to be a) compsensated for our time and advice.
What You Can Get For Free
There is plenty you can do for free. You have the opportunity to research me ahead of time and even call and talk to me on the phone for a bit to ask some broad questions. I put all my information out there for public viewing on this website. You can see video presentations given at lawyer continuing education classes, SCORE groups, and inventor groups. You can read some of my articles on patents, and see every single patent issued for my clients. There's even a detailed patent guide with lots of free information on the process. There is the same for trademark filing and the trademark process itself. You can come in knowing lots about me and the patent / trademark system, to make an educated choice. I put it all out there for people to view because if I were choosing an attorney to hire, i would want all this information.
He's another example of why . . .we charge a consultation fee for patent and trademark consultations:
Potential Client: "You get me with me, I'm going to make a billionaire. Not a millionaire, but a billionare . . . with a 'B'. Do you understand me?"
Michael Feigin, Esq.: "That's great. Let's start with a hundred-airre. I charge $200 for a patent consultation in New York City. Can we start there?"
Potential Client: "Two hun... whoa ... dollars? Whoa.... whoa... I'm gonna have to get back to you"
Believe it or not, without asking for a consult fee, we have no idea if an hour of our time in Manhattan (which has it's own associated costs) would be a waste of time. I have had people that sound similar to this man, but do, in fact, pay for services. So further reasons for the consultation fee are b) we can figure out if you're serious about moving forward and d) it weeds out the crazy.
Here's another real example. (This one is less literal as you'll see):
Potential Client: "We're building a team of strategic partners. We're international in this country, that country, and the other country. This is projected to net about $50 million dollars so we'll offer you a percentage."
If you're sure you're going to make $50 million, you won't give away even 1% ($50,000) to your attorney. You're either making a really bad business decision or your chances of such wild success are pretty low. Either way, it's not an investment that we're willing to make.
If a lawyer is really willing to take a chunk out of your earnings, it's because he's financially better off for doing so. For example, in personal injury law you're giving up a large percentage of a payout for your pain and suffering. These cases settle and the money passes through the lawyer's hand first. If you're serious about your business, you have a lot of time a sweat to put into it ... giving up share at the outset indicates the opposite. So reason e) a payment for services is an indicator of seriousness.
What You Can't Get For Free (at least not here)
At a consulation, I am going to give you a formal legal opinion. You are going to tell me your idea (and/or name to protect), and I am going to give over to you my legal expertise. Psychologically, we're both better off if you're paying. You will have a vested interest in the result and find it worth something, and I am being compensated for my legal expertise. I know that no matter how I counsel you, I am getting paid for my time. Sometimes the answer is a flat out, "no, that's not patentable" or "someone has that trademark alraedy." In that case, I've just given you valuable information that saved you a whole lot of time and money on something that would have gone no where. The consult fee is worth it, even then!
Why You Should Go To An Attorney That Charges a Consultation Fee
Lots of people want free information from Patent Attorneys. Few Patent Attorneys have such time. If you found one who does, there's a reason for that. He or she is either just starting out or isn't busy for a reason. Patents are a speciality within law requiring a further bar exam. Who's likely to be giving better advice - the cardiologist who meets people for free or the one who can charge $500 for the meeting? (We don't charge that much, and we credit the fee towards further work.)